Monday, November 22, 2010

Childhood Memories

My boyfriend and I have developed a great tradition of epic Sunday morning breakfasts and Mondays spent following each other around through various tasks and errands.  He'll finish grad school and start his job soon, and I have very grey ideas about what my future holds.  In the last few weeks, those Mondays have been spent exploring grocery stores in the morning, and finishing the day with baking into the evening.  Then I started this project and, well, he sits at his laptop, and I bake cookies.  Regardless of how we've ended up spending our time, its lovely to have his company and his encouragement has done wonders to get me over my hurdles of self-doubt.
I ended my return to adventures in the Gourmet Cookie Book with 1971's Speculaas, a cookie I hold close to my heart.  Traditionally served on Sinterklaas Eve, a Northern European holiday celebrating St Nicholas, they are heavily spiced - cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, aniseseed, white pepper, and clove.  My father is a Dutch immigrant and as a child I remember packages of speculaas in the shape of windmills, (like there along with chocolate letters of our first initials, every December 5th.  Later, my parents would often bake speculaas at Christmas time.  I'm not sure when my preference for sweets shifted from an entire (and rather large in my memories of a 5 year old) chocolate letter A, to the heavy, warm spices of the cookies I turned my nose up at as a child.  The older I get the more I yearn for cold weather and warm winter spices.  No one should be eating cookies at 10:30 on a Monday night, but I couldn't resist baking the scraps of dough and sampling just one (or maybe it was 2). 
An interesting thing I've noticed in reading and rereading the Gourmet Cookie Book, and baking my way through the recipes,  is the prevalence of alcohol as a flavor component.  Generally speaking they call for rum or brandy, never more than a few tablespoons, and very little in the way of extracts.  In later recipes extracts play a more prominent role.  I wonder why this shift happened...

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